Adobe is having Lightroom twins! Some critical thoughts.

In recent weeks I was thinking that nothing much was happening lately in Lightroom in terms of features but any speed improvement would be more than welcome. I had no idea that Adobe would make so radical announcements. The Lightroom CC we know so far is now renamed to “Lightroom Classic CC” and there is a second parallel Lightroom product that now has taken the name “Lightroom CC”.

A lot has already been written and we have all expressed opinions on the new LR CC on forums. I will go through the basics and these are:

  • LR CC is built around cloud storage and syncing photos and catalogs seamlessly between desktops, laptops and mobile devices running LR CC.
  • The CC subscription model comes as standard but this time around cloud storage can come at significant cost (more later).
  • The “stated” Adobe position is that both LR CC and LR Classic CC will keep being developed in parallel without issues.

Before my thoughts, I have to say that automatic cloud storage is a great core feature and definitely the shape of things to come. No catalog creation, no worries about backups, everything stays accessible via any device (at least in theory). I have played around with LR CC, mainly with photos shot from an Android smartphone. Everything runs seamlessly and photos appeared automatically on my laptop for larger screen editing to start.

On the usability side of things, LR CC runs smoothly but bear in mind that it is still in v.1 and lacks a huge part of functions we take in LR Classic CC as standard. For example there are no presets, no history, you cannot stitch panoramas or merge HDR photos, and so on. So from this point of view there is absolutely no incentive to use it, as it is at roughly the same functionality level with LR Mobile… Jumping between library and develop modules hardly has a distinctive line and things move pretty quickly.

I have serious doubts about speed and comfort of use with a large photo catalog. Internet speeds are not good everywhere and even though editing can happen from initial local storage, uploading lots of photos will render most Internet connections unusable for other tasks for weeks.

The really bad news is that Adobe’s stance is not very honest. Julieanne Kost’s video from Adobe has done nothing but generate more fears that Adobe will move wherever the wind blows. People from Adobe reassure us in forums that Lightroom Classic CC is not dead but forget to say that Lightroom 6 is dead and it is not exactly so old… Adobe has released even more statements of reassurance, I will take some of them here and comment with the way I see things.

LR Classic is not being phased out, development will continue in parallel with LR CC

As I mentioned earlier, recent functionality enhancements in LR have been abysmal. Now if Adobe thinks of new lens profiles as a novelty, if I am not wrong they are part of its responsibilities within the CC plan. Also, the range mask has been added because the same happened in Photoshop’s RAW module and these go in tandem, it has not been exclusively developed for LR. I think the most likely thing is that LR CC will get all development attention to catch up with LR Classic, and this is bad news for LR Classic CC new features, as simple as that.

Adobe will not kill LR Classic

Really? It has killed LR 6 and it was just the disc version of LR. Does Adobe think that we are stupid to believe that it will pay two separate development teams perpetually for two programs that have exactly the same aim?

Let me ask you this, how would you feel if two versions of Photoshop were announced, PS Classic and PS CC? Would you not worry? Does not the new situation smell like LR CC and LR 6, or PS CC and PS CS6? Adobe has never kept or supported two programs of the same functionality alive in parallel for a long time. Why would it do it now? Would anybody do it from a business point of view?

The fact that LR CC is sneaked into the “traditional” photography plan implies that Adobe does not want us on just LR Classic CC…

Adobe has plans to cover every photographer’s needs.

Sure! But at a considerable price. Right now $10 gets you LR CC plus 1TB of cloud storage, in other words you pay for what you get from Google for free!

If you stay on the “old” photography plan you get LR Classic CC, PS CC, LR CC plus 20GB of cloud storage.

Roughly $20 gets you LR Classic, PS CC, LR CC plus 1TB of cloud storage.

And now for the really outrageous part. Every additional 1TB of cloud storage costs an extra $10 per month! This is nuts. With 5TB of photo catalogs you pay $720 annually just for a program with the level of functionality of a mobile app. Hell, this is more than the annual cost of the full blown CC Suite cost. Who is so stupid to go for that?

Add to that the cost of local storage as an additional safeguard in case you want to terminate the CC membership or switch to other editing software and you have an even steeper bill. In my opinion the pre-existing photography plan is the only one that currently makes sense.

So I want to ask:

Why two Lightrooms Adobe?

For me, things are simple. Adobe needs CC subscriptions to finance LR CC development. Once it has reached a reasonable development status it will start cranking up the pressure for people to start seriously considering switching to LR CC. This might be changes to the CC photography plans, eventually we might have a roadmap of LR Classic termination. Who knows, by then LR CC might be a completely different proposition and user input might have led Adobe to blend features to make us love LR CC like our first love. The truth however is that one LR will come out of this alive. Adobe might be clumsy but has a roadmap, like any serious business. It does not reveal it but some things make better business sense than others.

What about the future?

For the near future I am not personally making any changes, I will definitely stick to Lightroom Classic CC. It lets me jump easily to PS and all kinds of external plugins, at the same time concentrating everything in my catalogs in a pretty nice manner.

I see however a tendency for smaller software houses to develop independent RAW editors that they want to make completely self-sufficient. Topaz is a good example, they have a wide range of external plugins that they now frantically integrate into their main software called Topaz Studio. Topaz Studio works in a slightly weird manner but is quite powerful. It does not however do any photo cataloging and management so for now I do not consider it as a LR replacement.

Another name that is promising is Macphun. They have recently opened up to PC users and since Adobe announced its new LR plans they are trumpeting their Luminar editing solution with promises that cataloging and photo management are coming in 2018. I have started using Aurora HDR 2018 their HDR dedicated software. It is a fresh and rewarding piece of software, if it is any sign of the features to come I think Macphun could be a serious future player. You also have the more well established DxO Photo Suite and Capture One, as well as Affinity and On1 with their new RAW engine.

Summary

What I am saying is that with time we will see serious LR replacement propositions with migration tools and all. Of course, Adobe will not stay still. If they managed to eventually produce a smooth transition to a single Lightroom version with full functionality (presets, full adjustments plus new features) that allows us to chose what is stored locally and what goes to the cloud (to keep costs in check), a lot of people would not risk moving to other software platforms.

What worries me is that Adobe has taken the Frankenstein route (see logo at start of this post) with two parallel LR versions. I am personally staying away from LR CC for the foreseeable future and can only think that Adobe could develop the LR we all use into a solution that includes cloud storage. I have seen opinions that LR CC has better code and starts from a clean base. My answer to this is that PS has been around for ages, but constant development keeps it modern, why cannot that be done with LR?

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